Editorial Feature

Nanotechnology in Point-of-Care Testing

POC devices have become a critical component of healthcare and with the advancement in nanotechnology that aims to continuously make developmental changes to traditional medicine, this area may also gain some innovative alterations.

​​​​​​​Image Credit: megaflopp/Shutterstock.com

Point of care (POC) testing can be described as a type of testing that is performed outside of the laboratory, including bedside, remote, mobile, and rapid in vitro diagnostic testing. 

Point of Care Devices

Point of care devices within the healthcare system can aid in improving diagnoses as well as the control of diseases through monitoring. These devices can include glucose monitors that only require a small volume of blood to provide a glucose reading – this is critical for managing diabetes, allowing patients to understand if they need to inject insulin or increase food intake.

The benefits of POC tests include rapid results that can be used for diagnostic purposes, as well as being low-in-cost and easy-to-use. Additionally, the lack of specialized equipment enables ease in production and manufacturing of these devices.

The goal for advancing POC testing is the development of small and portable chip-based devices comprising self-contained systems that allow for a multitude of analytes to be tested.

Such a development would advance biomedical research as well as increase the accessibility of medicine to patients; the ability to use these devices in the comfort of their own home is just one benefit.

Having a portable and advanced device that could analyze complex samples in this way could also ensure a higher level of patient compliance, especially with patients that refuse to come to the hospital. Other groups that would also benefit from using a portable POC testing kit at home include vulnerable groups including the elderly and immunocompromised, who should not be near other health-challenged individuals.

Developing POC Devices

The World Health Organization (WHO) has provided guidelines that are required for the development of POC devices, which are known using the acronym, ASSURED, comprising characteristics such as, (i) affordable, (ii) sensitive, (iii) specific, (iv) user-friendly, (v) rapid/robust, (vi) equipment-free or minimal equipment, and (vii) delivered and available to those with the greatest need.

There are two classes of POC devices, which can be categorized as smaller hand-held devices and devices that are found on top of benches that are larger in size. The former can be developed through microfabrication methods with the aim of the device having automated sample preparation, analysis, and signal detection, while also providing both qualitative and quantitative measurements. However, the latter is a smaller version of central laboratory equipment that works in the same way, with the method being simplified.

The growth of in vitro diagnostics has become a hugely growing market, and with molecular diagnostics being combined with POC devices – this field has gained traction over recent years. This type of molecular diagnostics device can be used for various infectious diseases, as well as blood screening and detection of food pathogens.

An example of a POC device with a diagnostic component for the detection of an infectious virus includes the lateral flow test that has been used by a large proportion of the global population for detecting the severe acute respiratory coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2).

384 million lateral flow testing kits were ordered by the UK government alone for the objective of reducing the spread of the virus via mass testing; this costed over £1.3 billion ($1.8 billion) with the majority of tested being bought from the US company, Innova Group.

The COVID-19 pandemic has illustrated the requirement for innovative developments in the POC field, with POC devices being advanced with nanotechnology for enhancing global health.

Nanotechnology Advancements

The growth of nanotechnology over the last ten years has demonstrated a fast-paced traction of research for advancing medicine as well as within diagnostics and therapeutics.

Specifically, nanocomposites that utilize carbon nanotubes, graphene and nanoparticles have been investigated with various roles in the development of POC biosensors. Here, nanomaterials often function as a carrier for loading signal markers or used as signal reporters when detecting analytes within samples.

These innovative materials can be used to enhance the specificity and sensitivity of detection devices as well as increase the reliability of results. This is often due to properties like having a high surface area to volume ratio, strong electrical properties as well as high chemical stability and reactivity.

Advancing POC devices through integrating nanomaterials into micro-biosensor detectors may aid with revolutionizing healthcare, with the ability to manufacture a small, portable, easy to use, low-cost device that can increase universal access to healthcare.

Such integration can be used in many biomedical applications, including glucose biosensors for aiding the management of the diabetes epidemic. This is a multi-billion-dollar market and utilizing nanoparticles and nanomaterials within biosensing devices, which can be functionalized to detect multiple biomarkers within a blood sample may be revolutionary for early diagnosis, managing diseases effectively and reducing mortality and morbidity.

Additionally, research into using nanotechnology to develop POC tests can be used for infectious diseases; this can be exemplified within the COVID-19 pandemic, which resulted in innovative developments within nanoparticle-based POC devices. For example, one research group developed a selenium nanoparticle-based point of care test that detects anti-SARS-CoV-2 immunoglobulins such as IgG and IgM in human serum and blood.  This test has been reported to have a limit of detection of 5 ​ng/mL and 20 ​ng/mL, for each of the immunoglobulins, respectively, with results being provided within 10 ​minutes.

Future Outlook

The speed of research into nanotechnology-based POC has been high during the COVID-19 pandemic; however, with variants being less deadly and the virus becoming less of a health concern overall, this type of research can be directed and applied to a myriad of other infectious diseases.

While this research is still in the early phases, the growth of the POC field has been tremendous for diseases such as diabetes through the use of glucose monitoring technology. With advancements in sensitivity and speed through the use of nanomaterials and nanoparticles, the potential growth for other health diseases and disorders can also be estimated to be high, with objectives for effective management.

Continue reading: How Nanotechnology Became a Cancer Research Staple.

References and Further Reading

Nichols, J., 2020. Point-of-care testing. Contemporary Practice in Clinical Chemistry, pp.323-336. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1016/B978-0-12-815499-1.00019-3

Quesada-González, D. and Merkoçi, A., 2018. Nanomaterial-based devices for point-of-care diagnostic applications. Chemical Society Reviews, 47(13), pp.4697-4709. Available at: 10.1039/C7CS00837F

Syedmoradi, L., Daneshpour, M., Alvandipour, M., Gomez, F., Hajghassem, H. and Omidfar, K., 2017. Point of care testing: The impact of nanotechnology. Biosensors and Bioelectronics, 87, pp.373-387. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bios.2016.08.084

Torjesen, I., 2021. Covid-19: How the UK is using lateral flow tests in the pandemic. BMJ, p.n287. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.n287

Wang, Y., Xu, H., Dong, Z., Wang, Z., Yang, Z., Yu, X. and Chang, L., 2022. Micro/nano biomedical devices for point-of-care diagnosis of infectious respiratory diseases. Medicine in Novel Technology and Devices, 14, p.100116. Available at: 10.1016/j.medntd.2022.100116

Wang, Z., Zheng, Z., Hu, H., Zhou, Q., Liu, W., Li, X., Liu, Z., Wang, Y. and Ma, Y., 2020. A point-of-care selenium nanoparticle-based test for the combined detection of anti-SARS-CoV-2 IgM and IgG in human serum and blood. Lab on a Chip, 20(22), pp.4255-4261. Available at: 10.1039/d0lc00828a

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are those of the author expressed in their private capacity and do not necessarily represent the views of AZoM.com Limited T/A AZoNetwork the owner and operator of this website. This disclaimer forms part of the Terms and conditions of use of this website.

Marzia Khan

Written by

Marzia Khan

Marzia Khan is a lover of scientific research and innovation. She immerses herself in literature and novel therapeutics which she does through her position on the Royal Free Ethical Review Board. Marzia has a MSc in Nanotechnology and Regenerative Medicine as well as a BSc in Biomedical Sciences. She is currently working in the NHS and is engaging in a scientific innovation program.

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